Spokane's flourishing food scene is grabbing some deserved national attention again.
This time, Inland Northwest chef and restaurant owner Adam Hegsted — chef-owner of The Wandering Table and The Gilded Unicorn in Spokane, and The Cellar in Coeur d'Alene — has been named a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Best Chef Award.
Hegsted is a semifinalist for the Northwest region, which lists a total of 20 chefs mostly from Seattle and Portland.
James Beard Awards are a big deal for those in the food and hospitality industry. Semifinalists are chosen from a pool of more than 20,000 nominees from across the country — landing a James Beard Award means you're one of the best chefs in the nation.
Spokane's culinary creatives are no stranger to this accolade, as last year we also saw Sante Restaurant & Charcuterie and Common Crumb Chef Jeremy Hansen named a semifinalist.
This year's awards are to be presented during the 2016 James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago, on May 2. But first, we'll be rooting for Hegsted to be named a finalist in an announcement about a month from now, on March 15.
The table is set and open for reservations.
As of today, all of the three-course menus featured at Inlander Restaurant Week's 104 participating restaurants — the fourth-annual culinary event is set for Feb. 26 through March 6 — are now live online.
From fresh sushi in Coeur d'Alene to Italian fare in Browne's Addition, Restaurant Week offers flavors to suit any taste, occasion and budget. The online menu database allows users to browse alphabetically, or search by price (the fixed-price menu options are $19 or $29 per person), cuisine style and location. While you're browsing, look for the Drink Local symbols noted on each menu, indicating the variety of locally made spirits, beer, cider, wine and coffee offered at many of the IRW eateries.
There are still several weeks before the event kicks off, but start thinking now about when, where and what other special events you might want to tie in with your restaurant experience. Weekend dining during Restaurant Week is especially likely to be busy, so calling ahead to save your place at the table (on any night) is not a bad idea. After all, you don't want to miss out on sampling the menus at the top of your IRW 2016 "bucket list."
Also, don't forget to grab the Feb. 25 issue of the Inlander, which includes a comprehensive guide to Restaurant Week 2016 — as well as printed versions of the menus — including interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, a list of all places new to IRW, and menu highlights that intrigued us.
Three cheers for local beer, food and community!
This year, Spokane's internationally-recognized No-Li Brewhouse is kicking off a new event that features various neighborhoods in Spokane, one each month for the remainder of 2016.
Every Monday throughout the month, LocALE at No-Li highlights a Spokane neighborhood through its staff donating and volunteering their time within the 'hood, as well as selling collectible, branded pint glasses unique to each neighborhood.
For years, No-Li has consistently worked with community businesses and nonprofits to raise awareness of their missions, and to donate time and money to various causes in the region. Previously partnering with organizations such as SpokAnimal and Toys for Tots, No-Li created LocALE to further integrate the "community fabric" into its work.
"The Spokane community is a fabric of local neighborhoods that add character and a sense of being real and grounded," No-Li owner John Bryant says in a press release. "We look forward to celebrating the individuality and specialness of our community, one Spokane neighborhood at a time."
LocALE is scheduled to kick off at the brewery (1003 E. Trent Ave) on Feb. 1, from 5-8 pm, during which they'll release the first of the 11 collectible neighborhood pint glasses.
We're obviously super excited about the fourth annual Inlander Restaurant Week coming up in exactly a month — happening for 10 days from Feb. 26 through March 6 — but there are many special culinary events to look forward to in the meantime. (Also, don't forget that Restaurant Week menus are being released online next week, on Thursday, Feb. 4).
Special one-time and occasional chef dinners aren't a new trend, but of late we've definitely noticed more of these intimate events happening across the region. Since most have limited seating and feature a special menu offered that night only, making reservations is required. This means knowing about an event ahead of time is important, as many sell out early.
Here's the latest round-up of one-time chef dinners happening in the coming weeks that we've heard of:
Cellar Supper Club Wine Dinner — Chef Adam Hegsted
The Coeur d'Alene restaurant was purchased more than a year ago by acclaimed local chef Adam Hegsted, and occasionally hosts exclusive wine dinners, including this Friday's event (Jan. 29, at 6 pm) which is limited to only 10 guests. The $125 ticket price (including tax/tip) includes a seven-course dinner, which includes highlights such as foie gras, braised lamb, poached oysters and smoked duck. Each course is paired with wine from Europe or Washington state.
The Ivory Table's Supper Club — Chef Kristen White
This monthly event at the French-inspired cafe on East Sprague features a four-course dinner created by Chef/owner Kristen Ward. (Read more about the dinners in this Inlander feature from December.) Held monthly on the first Friday, February's dinner (Feb. 5, 6 pm) is Spanish-inspired and includes wine pairings selected by Pomum Cellars' winemaker Javier Alfonso. There are only 30 spots available at these dinners, which are $65/person not including wine pairings (an additional $25/person).
If you can't make it to the Friday night dinner, or if it sells out (which happens each month) there's also a special Valentine's weekend dinner offering five courses served by candlelight, set for Sunday, Feb. 14, at 6 pm. Dinner and wine pairings are the same price as the monthly Supper Club dinner.
The year has barely started and we're already looking ahead seven weeks for the fourth annual Inlander Restaurant Week, happening this year from February 26 through March 6.
That's a week later than last year, but pretty much all other details about the 10-day culinary showcase of the region remain the same as in previous years.
This year's event has expanded slightly from last year, which saw 97 participating eateries around the region. For 2016, that number has already surpassed 100, and as of this writing hits at 104 — becoming the biggest Restaurant Week ever.
Other newcomers — many are restaurants newly opened since last year — to the fourth IRW include: The Blackbird Tavern + Kitchen, Browne's Tavern, Crickets (CdA), Gaslamp (River Park Square), The Gilded Unicorn, Nudo, Table 13 (Davenport Grand) and Timber Gastro Pub (Post Falls).
Menu prices are still fixed for a three-course meal, at either $19 or $29/person (Yes, you're right, that's $1 more than past years. Obviously, it's still a heck of a deal.)
But we can't tell you yet what's got us drooling on the menus so far because, for one, we haven't seen them ourselves, and they're not being officially released online (at inlanderrestaurantweek.com) until February 4.
For now, start thinking about what new spots and old favorites in town you're hoping to check out, and clear out a few evenings on your calendar to get out and sample our region's blossoming culinary industry. It's really mind-boggling how much our regional food scene has grown and matured in recent years, and this year already has a lot in store.
For a traditional Ethiopian coffee experienced in a large café setting, The Service Station in North Spokane is the place to be. With a spacious seating area equipped with tables, bar-style seating and oversized arm chairs, this gathering place is the perfect amount of cozy and business.
Since 2011, Alan Roll has been a part of the team at The Service Station, moving from serving coffee into his current position as general manager.
INLANDER: How did you end up at The Service Station?
ROLL: Good close friends opened up this place, actually. Since then, it's changed hands a couple times, but I'm here because I love The Service Station. I was first hired on in January 2011 and I worked for about a year. [Then] I had a massive brain injury. After recovery, I came back to work for a little bit, then I moved for a year. I came back as a supervisor, and I am actually now the general manager.
What made you want to get into coffee?
I'll start by saying I've always drank coffee. I think the things that have caught my eye about coffee in the past is the art that can be intertwined along with just a simple cup of coffee. What caught my eye here was the statement about what The Service Station is. The fact that friends owned it, and also I was just waiting tables which I had done for some time, so a nice change of scenery was appropriate, and I couldn't have asked for a better scene right now.
What's the most rewarding thing about working here?
Oh, the guests. Absolutely, hands down. I have met so many new people, family, friends — I would not be here if it wasn't for the people here. I'm here for the people. I love people, I absolutely love people. I thrive on it.
Any current coffee trends you've been noticing?
People are actually really getting away from what a genuine cup of coffee is. A cup of coffee is what everybody drinks, but it's so done up now. You're not even really tasting the coffee anymore. Even just a single solo macchiato shot with a dab of cream and a little bit of caramel, that happens maybe once a day. You want a great cup of coffee and you really want to taste what you're drinking— I wish there was more of that. We are falling away from what an actual cup of coffee really is.
Do you have a favorite memory of working here?
I don't know if I have a specific memory. I have so many good ones, there aren't any bad ones. If anything, I would just have to revert back to my guests.
Have you had any really memorable customers?
Mary. I love Mary. She's a teacher, I want to say at Brentwood. I might be wrong on that, and I don't even know her last name. But I know her drink, I know what bagel she gets. She is definitely hands-down my favorite. She's brought me a plant.
What is your favorite thing to drink here?
Oh, it'd have to be my drink. It has actually gotten outside the counter and people actually come in and order "the Alan." What it is, is a drip coffee with horchata, brown sugar, cinnamon and a splash of almond milk.
What is your favorite food item here?
The chicken panini.
What are some of your hobbies?
Actually, I do some odd-ball art, I'd have to say. I like to decoupage many things. Just to start, giant canvases. I have some hanging on my wall in my home, like 4-feet-by-5-feet. I have a table top that I've decoupaged. I'm also a complete plant fiend. I even have one of my aloe vera cactuses in here. I love nature, so when the weather is appropriate, hiking, walking — all over the place.
If you could describe the coffee shop in one word, what would it be?
Spokane's food scene is in the midst of a renaissance, with more chef-owned eateries popping up than ever. Ripe for growth, the industry is even drawing top talent from major culinary cities who are eager to get back to their small-town roots. The latest personality to enter the Inland Northwest food scene is San Diego's Chef Chad White — also a contestant on the 13th season of Top Chef, Top Chef: California — who's coming home to Spokane to open a planned eatery called Native Post & Provisions. The Top Chef season White is competing in premieres on Bravo on Dec. 2-3, and will feature 17 chefs from across California.
Eater San Diego reports that upon his return to Spokane, Chef White is planning to open a 40-to-50-seat restaurant featuring a Northwest-centric menu, with most dishes cooked over a wood fire. The projected opening date is spring 2016. It's not yet confirmed where Native Post & Provisions is to be located.
White, an award-winning chef who trained in French and Mediterranean cuisine, has an eclectic, urban food style that's heavily Baja-influenced, but his tagline is "borderless flavor" — he doesn't box himself in to only cooking in region-specific styles.
Though he's coming back home, White said he plans to keep operating two restaurants in the San Diego-Tijuana area: La Justina in Tijuana and Craft Pizza Co. in San Diego. His Comun Taqueria in San Diego will close.
To recognize the sacrifices of our region's military veterans, several area restaurants are offering free meals or special discounts to say thanks. Pass the word along, or make reservations now to share the appreciation from all of us for helping keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave.
7640 N. Division, 467-5987
Free meals for vets offered from 7 am to 2 pm
Menu features: Swedish crepes, Dutch babies, German pancakes
517 N. Pines, 891-7662
Free meals for vets offered from 7 am to 2 pm
Menu features: Stuffed french toast, Danish Aebelskivers, burgers
245 W. Main, 634-5226
Buy-one-get-one free for vets offered from 11 am to 11 pm
Menu features: Myzithra spaghetti, chicken cacciatore, scampi luigi
MacKenzie River Pizza
9225 N. Nevada, 413-1043
25 percent off for vets, offered from 11 am to 9 pm
Menu features: Apple and chicken flatbread, MacKenzie River pizza, Buffalo mack 'n’ cheese
6220 N. Division, 484-4500
50 percent off for vets, offered from 11 am to 10 pm
Menu features: Sicilian focaccia sandwich, grandma’s lasagna, seafood manicotti
1403 N. Division, 326-6412
30 percent off for vets on carry-out, from 10 am to 1 pm
Menu features: Fiery fingers chicken pipeliner sub, Thai peanut supreme, Hawaiian luau extreme
7117 N. Division, 468-1895
Free meals for vets offered from 5 to 9 pm
Menu features: variety of buffet style items
Timber Creek Grill Buffet
9211 E. Montgomery Ave, 892-6390
$5 lunch from 10:30 am to 4pm; $7 dinner from 3:30 pm to close
Menu features: Teri street chicken, seafood salad, clam chowder
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